Game 31
1 vs. Caribbean 0

Saturday, August 26, 2007

A Near-Perfect Ending
Texas finishes strong behind Williams’ near complete perfect game

By Andrew Schimmel
Special Correspondent

Perhaps the most dominant pitcher at this year’s Little League Baseball World Series saved his best for last on Saturday afternoon.

Garrett Williams was nearly perfect through 5 2/3 innings after striking out Entwin Reigina on his 85th pitch game, putting him at the pitch count limit. Williams would give way to Taylor Bridges to record the last out and give the boys from Texas a 1-0 win over Curacao in Sunday’s Third-Place Game.

Home plate umpire Jeremy Haley called time after Reigina went down swinging, Williams’ 14th punchout of the game, and strode over to the Southwest dugout, prompting Williams to tilt his head back in exasperation at being so close to a no-hitter.

“I was pretty mad but I knew Taylor would come in and shut it down for me,” Williams said. “I just needed to get a little bit more focused and start throwing more strikes.”

Williams patted Bridges on the back as he came on before taking his new position at first base. Bridges kept the Texas faithful biting their nails after the tying and winning runs reached base on a walk and an error by shortstop Bryndan Arredondo. Fortunately for Bridges, Deion Rosalia couldn’t repeat his walk-off heroics from Curacao’s International Semi-Final and flew out to centerfielder Bo Ricks to end the game and give Southwest the combined no-hitter.

It was the only no-no of the 2007 Series, and the 33rd since pool play began in 1992.

“To be the third-best team in the world is pretty great,” said a smirking Williams. “We just came out and put it to ‘em.”

The Lubbock Western All-Stars scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, when Caribbean pitcher Vincent Anthonia walked Bridges and Max Randolph to lead off the inning. Two wild pitches later, Bridges came around to score.

Williams struck out eight of the first nine batters that he faced. He led off the top of the fourth by issuing a walk that stayed stranded at first after a 5-4 put out and back-to-back strikeouts put him back on track. The only other base runner Williams would allow occurred after a letter-high inside fastball glanced off of Quinton Willems in the bottom of the fifth. The Southwest ace quickly regained his control with a 6-5 fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Williams had already seen another one of his outstanding performances cut short due to the pitch count limit. In Southwest’s opening game against the Midwest, he went 5 2/3 innings, striking out 17 and surrendering only 3 hits before reaching the maximum.

The 5-foot-9, 127-pounder finished his World Series run without giving up a run in 16.0 innings of work (two starts, one relief appearance), and ringing up 42 batters in the process to average 2.63 strikeouts an inning.

“It’s great to close out on a win,” said Southwest manager Ed Thorne.

When asked for his thoughts on the pitch count, the manager took a stance that some might find surprising coming from a skipper whose starter just came within one out of a no-hitter.

“I’d like to see the pitch count lowered…because I’d like to see more pitchers developed,” he said. “I think the strategy would get a little more complicated, a little bit more fun. But you know, I can understand Garrett when you’d like to close the game out also. But you know, he’s that type of individual; he wasn’t thinking about himself, he was thinking about his team. He wanted to win and that’s the kind of young man he is.”

Williams beamed when asked about the summer he had just experienced.

“I’m going to take a lot of memories, this whole trip, this whole summer, it’s been one of the best summers of my life,” said Williams. “We’re always going to remember the summer of ’07 when we went to the Little League World Series.”

And thanks to Williams, thousands of Little League fans won’t soon forget an amazing performance.

2007, Little League Baseball Incorporated
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